OREGON HIGH SCHOOL - 2000 Illinois Class 3a State Runner-Up
Coach Bothe inherited a 2-7 team in 1998, he knew the first step towards success would begin in weight room. Hawks qualified for a class 3A state playoff berth for the first time since 1982.
By Chad Messer • Starting QB/DB
Published: Spring 2001
They lined the fences; they chanted and cheered, “It’s great to be an Oregon Hawk, it’s great to be an Oregon Hawk!”. They skipped work and gave up weekend afternoons to support the Hawks. The communities of Oregon and Mt. Morris, Illinois rallied behind their class 3A state runner-up football team. These two northern Illinois towns lived for Friday nights and Saturday afternoons to see their team succeed. However, the fans were mostly unaware of the methodical, championship-aspiring program created two years ago.
Oregon athletic director, Vern Welp, hired John Bothe to take over the head coaching job for the Hawks football program in 1998. Bothe had success playing football for Amboy High School, a state champion, and Augustana
College, a Division III national champion. He was determined to enjoy the same success as the coach at Oregon High. He found himself heading into a great situation because Oregon had good athletes and superb facilities.
Considering the traditional success of the cross-country, wrestling, and track programs, including state championships, Bothe knew the football program could enjoy similar success.
Coach Bothe inherited a 2-7 team in 1998, which had not won a Big Northern Conference game in two years. The Big Northern is an extremely physical conference, where smash-mouth football is the only type of football played. Taking this in mind, Bothe knew the first step towards success would begin in weight room. In order to be competitive, the Hawks would have to be better prepared physically, an area where opponents had dominated them in the past few years. That’s when Bothe implemented the BFS program.
Coach Bothe and his staff of Mark Shaulis, Grant Smith, Mark Gale, Brad Bauer, Don Carlson, Bob Hamel, and Steve Rhoads were diligent in opening the weight room as much as possible, giving their players the opportunity to become better. Their players believed the BFS program and made themselves better athletes, especially focusing and dedicating themselves to the core lifts.
Along with using BFS, the Oregon staff installed Oregon High’s Iron Hawk program. Iron Hawk is a conditioning program, done before or after lifting weights, designed to increase speed, agility, and endurance. Iron Hawk workouts were held all through July and into early August to help players condition for the upcoming season.
Although they had made much progress, the 1998 season was a frustrating one for the Oregon Hawks. They were competitive in their rugged conference schedule, an important step towards success. But they failed to win a conference game and finished 2-7 overall. The sophomore Hawks, however, were undefeated conference champs, showing that the system indeed worked. Most importantly in 1998, the first year under Coach Bothe, the young Hawks had bought into the Oregon football program. They believed in the BFS program, the new wing-T offense, and in the team concept that Oregon had lacked for so long.
The 1999 season was a breakthrough for the Oregon Hawks. They were still smaller than most of their opponents but played like dynamite in a small package. Oregon raced off to a 4-0 record, including an impressive victory over the third ranked, eventual class 2A state champions, Stillman Valley. After the undefeated start, the Hawks took another step toward achieving their goals by going 3-2 in the conference and qualifying for a class 3A state playoff berth for the first time since 1982. Their two conference losses came at the hands of the eventual class 3A state champion and to a class 4A playoff qualifier. In the Hawks’ first-round playoff game, they fell to Addison Driscoll 35-21, a school with a traditionally strong football program. Although it was a competitive game, Oregon came up short. But they were a step closer to the desired success.
In 2000, Bothe’s team was determined to start the new millennium with a bang. The Hawks returned only 6 starters, but lifting and Iron Hawk turnouts were the highest since Bothe arrived, evidence of the underclassmen evolving into better athletes. Not only did Oregon match their opponents physically now, but they were often dominating. Outscoring their opponents 75-7 in their first two games, the Oregon Hawks headed into a third-week showdown with an outstanding Stillman Valley team. The young Hawks were affected by the big-game atmosphere and suffered a loss to the eventual Class 2A repeat state champs. Even though this was a major letdown, Oregon learned they had plenty of work ahead of them and turned up the intensity a notch. Along with extremely competitive practices, the Hawks used the BFS in-season program in the weight room to grow stronger and avoid injuries. They dominated their conference schedule, including wins over two ranked opponents, and finished the regular season with and 8-1 record and number six ranking. Oregon had developed into an excellent team through hustle in practice and focus off the field.
With the start of the class 3A playoffs, the Hawks continued to better themselves with each game. They physically dominated larger opponents for the next four weeks in route to the state championship game. Unlike Oregon football of the past, the Hawks were finishing off exceptional opponents instead of just being happy with being competitive. Every player on the team, from starters to back-ups, would do anything possible to win.
Unfortunately, in the state championship, the Hawks ran into a physically superior team that had an equally competitive work ethic and team attitude.
Oregon lost to number one ranked Harrisburg, but by no means did that take away from the Hawks’ run during the 2000 season. By implementing the BFS program and a great work ethic, John Bothe and his staff turned the Oregon football program from an easy win for opponents into a successful program in just two years. His players embraced the system and thrived under it. The work ethic was also evident in the players off the field, with no Hawk being academically ineligible during the 2000 season. Oregon’s football team also gave the community something to rally behind and be proud of, as evidenced by the numerous signs around town and record breaking turnouts for the games. The athletic director from Seneca, a playoff opponent, noted how the Hawks’ fans had turned his stadium into an Oregon home game and claimed Oregon’s football program to be one of the classiest he had ever seen. The Oregon staff, players, and fans truly made it “great to be an Oregon Hawk.”
The athletic director from Seneca, a playoff opponent, noted how the Hawks’ fans had turned his stadium into an Oregon home game and claimed Oregon’s football program to be one of the classiest he had ever seen. The Oregon staff, players, and fans truly made it “great to be an Oregon Hawk.”